Heywood Gardens, Ballinakill, County Laois, Ireland

The Irish Ministry of Public Works has a brilliant scheme for publicising the attractive places they care for, and at the same time educating the public in local history.

They are putting on eight events at weekly intervals, and the first was at Heywood Gardens, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1906 for Sir Hutcheson Poë.

I was rung from Dublin by a charming lady and asked if I would take part with two others in readings about the Heywood Estate, and people associated with it, at an event on Sunday 18th September 2005. The other two readers were Seamus Hosey an RTE broadcaster, who was also the compere, and Ros Drinkwater a Gardening and Fine Arts journalist.

Heywood House once stood gauntly on the side of a hill, with two lakes and woodlands below. Sir Edwin built up a broad terrace below the house, on which he designed a garden, at one end of which was an Italian garden surrounded by walls with portholes through which to view the distance. The garden has a round pool surrounded by turtles on spheres spouting water into the pool. At the other end was a walk along a thirty-foot drop with a pergola and classic columns, looking down onto a lily growing lake and wooded landscape.

The house was burnt down in 1950, probably due to an electrical fault, but the beautiful gardens remain.

At the event there were eight readings, separated by short pieces of music, contemporary to the readings, played by a three-piece wind ensemble.

Seamus and Ros started with readings about the Trenche family who lived at Heywood House in 1775, and about Heywood in 1801. I followed with details of the Lutyens Trust, Sir Edwin, family memories of Sir Edwin, and what it feels like to be a Lutyens – all in two minutes. I then read extracts from Sir Edwin’s letters to Lady Emily dated 1909 to 1912 describing his dealings with Sir Hutcheson Poë, an irascible gentleman with a wooden leg. I then read an extract from an article in Country Life dated 1919 describing Heywood Gardens.

The other readings by Seamus and Ros covered Sir Hutcheson Poë’s support for Hugh Lane’s art gallery in Dublin, and a poem by Cecil Day Lewis called ‘A Hard Frost’, which could have been of County Laois.

The event was attended by Tom Parlon T.D, the Minister of State at the Office of Public Works, and Commissioner David Byers, one of his two Deputies, and by an audience of about two hundred.

Charles Lutyens